This is part of a series of posts looking at Australia’s anti-discrimination laws and discussing how well, or how poorly, they protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. The articles on other jurisdictions can be found here.
In these posts, I have analysed Commonwealth, state and territory legislation with respect to three main issues:
- Protected Attributes
- Religious Exceptions, and
- Anti-Vilification Coverage
This post will be the shortest of the nine, because in all three areas Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 is either best practice, or close to best practice.
Unlike some other schemes, Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 protects all parts of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community against discrimination.
Section 16 sets out the protected attributes of the Act, and they include sexual orientation (sub-section c), gender identity (ea) and intersex variations of sex characteristics (eb) [noting that Intersex Human Rights Australia’s position is that this last attribute should simply be ‘sex characteristics’ rather than intersex variations of sex characteristics, in line with the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10].
The definitions of these terms in section 3 are also inclusive:
“sexual orientation includes-
(a) heterosexuality; and
(b) homosexuality; and
“gender identity means the gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms of other gender-related characteristics of an individual including gender expression (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth, and may include being transgender or transsexual”
“gender expression means any personal physical expression, appearance (whether by way of medical intervention or not), speech, mannerisms, behavioural patterns, names and personal references that manifest or express gender or gender identity”
“sex characteristics means a person’s physical, hormonal or genetic features relating to sex, including genitalia and other sexual and reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, genes, hormones, and secondary sex characteristics”.
Overall, the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 adopts close to best practice in terms of the protected attributes it includes, covering all LGBTI Tasmanians.
The Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 is best practice when it comes to religious exceptions – in fact, Tasmania is better, far better, than any other Australian jurisdiction in this area.
There are three provisions outlining relevant religious exceptions in the Act:
Section 51 “Employment based on religion
(1) A person may discriminate against another person on the ground of religious belief or affiliation or religious activity in relation to employment if the participation of the person in the observance or practice of a particular religion is a genuine occupational qualification or requirement in relation to the employment.
(2) A person may discriminate against another person on the ground of religious belief or affiliation or religious activity in relation to employment in an educational institution that is or is to be conducted in accordance with the tenets, beliefs, teachings, principles or practices of a particular religion if the discrimination is in order to enable, or better enable, the educational institution to be conducted in accordance with those tenets, beliefs, principles or practices.”
Section 51A “Admission of person as student based on religion
(1) A person may discriminate against another person on the ground of religious belief or affiliation or religious activity in relation to admission of that other person as a student to an educational institution that is or is to be conducted in accordance with the tenets, beliefs, teachings, principles or practices of a particular religion.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to a person who is enrolled as a student at the educational institution referred to in that subsection.
(3) Subsection (1) does not permit discrimination on any grounds referred to in section 16 other than those specified in that subsection.
(4) A person may, on a ground specified in subsection (1), discriminate against another person in relation to the admission of the other person as a student to an educational institution, if the educational institution’s policy for the admission of students demonstrates that the criteria for admission relates to the religious belief or affiliation, or religious activity, of the other person, the other person’s parents or the other person’s grandparents.”
Section 52. “Participation in religious observance
A person may discriminate against another person on the ground of religious belief or religious activity in relation to-
(a) the ordination or appointment of a priest; or
(b) the training and education of any person seeking ordination or appointment as a priest; or
(c) the selection or appointment of a person to participate in any religious observance or practice; or
(d) any other act that-
(i) is carried out in accordance with the doctrine of a particular religion; and
(ii) is necessary to avoid offending the religious sensitivities of any person of that religion.”
At first glance these exceptions appear extensive in their application. However, the most important point to observe is that discrimination by religious bodies, including religious schools, is only allowed on the basis of the person being discriminated against’s religion – for example, a christian school offering preferential enrolment to students that are christian.
It specifically does not allow discrimination on the basis of other attributes, such as the person being discriminated against’s sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex variations of sex characteristics.
In this way, the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 is clearly superior to other state and territory LGBTI discrimination laws, as well as the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (which not only provides a general religious exception allowing discrimination against LGBT people in a wide range of circumstances, but also a specific one with respect to religious schools that permits discrimination against LGBT students and teachers). It is therefore pleasing that the ACT Government embraced the Tasmanian approach in its recent reforms to protect LGBT students and teachers at religious schools – although it retains exceptions for health and other community services at this stage.
The anti-vilification protections afforded LGBTI Tasmanians under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 are also strong. There are actually two provisions that prohibit vilification under the Act:
Section 17 “Prohibition of certain conduct and sexual harassment
(1) A person must not engage in any conduct which offends, humiliates, insults or ridicules another person on the basis of an attribute referred to in section 16(e), (a), (b), (c), (d), (ea), (eb) and (k), (fa), (g), (h), (i) or (j) in circumstances in which a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated that the other person would be offended, humiliated, intimidated, insulted or ridiculed…”
Section 19 “Inciting hatred
A person, by a public act, must not incite hatred towards, serious contempt for, or severe ridicule of, a person or a group of persons on the ground of-
(a) the race of the person or any member of the group; or
(b) any disability of the person or any member of the group; or
(c) the sexual orientation or lawful sexual activity of the person or any member of the group; or
(d) the religious belief or activity of the person or any member of the group; or
(e) the gender identity or intersex variations of sex characteristics of the person or any member of the group.”
The effect of these two provisions mean that LGBTI Tasmanians are protected both against conduct that offends, humiliates, insults or ridicules, as well as conduct that incites hatred, serious contempt or serious ridicule. This means Tasmania’s LGBTI anti-vilification provisions are the equal best in the country, alongside the ACT.
[Although it should be noted that, in its previous term, the Tasmanian Liberal Government attempted to undermine these anti-vilification protections. It sought to introduce amendments that would have permitted vilification for public acts done in good faith for ‘religious purposes’ (where “religious purpose includes, but is not limited to, conveying, teaching or proselytising a religious belief”). This would have inevitably resulted in increased vilification of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Tasmanians. Thankfully, while the Bill was passed by the Liberal-majority Legislative Assembly, it was rejected by the Independent-majority Legislative Council in August 2017.]
Overall, it is clear that Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 is the best LGBTI anti-discrimination law in Australia. It has set the standard to which all other jurisdictions should aspire.
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